Wearing a condom is a key preventive measure against many sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs/STIs). However, it's important to note that condoms don't provide absolute protection against all of them.
Despite being a primary practice for safe sex, condoms may not offer 100% effectiveness against sexually transmitted infections and diseases. The World Health Organization reports over one million new STIs acquired daily worldwide, with many cases showing no symptoms. Annually, approximately 374 million new infections are recorded, with one in four being curable STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
STIs and STDs are passed on through sexual contact. While condoms reduce the risk of many of these conditions, they are not a fail-safe shield. Dr. Shwetha S Kamath, Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynecology at BirthRight by Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Bengaluru, shared insights regarding their effectiveness.
Can condoms prevent all STDs/STIs?
Condoms effectively reduce the risk of contracting most infections. Dr. Kamath affirms, "Condoms, when used correctly, are highly effective in reducing the risk of most STIs, including HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, by creating a barrier between partners' sexual fluids."
Research published in the National Library of Medicine demonstrates condoms provide about 90% protection against HIV, Hepatitis B virus, and N. gonorrhoea. Another study suggests they can also help protect women against trichomoniasis.
However, condoms may not prevent skin-to-skin infections. Dr. Kamath explains, "Some STIs and STDs, like herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), genital warts, syphilis, and molluscum contagiosum, spread through skin-to-skin contact and can still be transmitted despite condom use."
For instance, even with condom use, during a herpes outbreak on the testicles, the virus could spread through contact with a partner's vulva or anus, Dr. Kamath clarifies.
How to correctly use a condom?Condoms act as a barrier, preventing bodily fluids from reaching the vagina or rectum. To maximize their effectiveness:
1. Always check the expiration date and use a new condom each time you have sex.
2. Wear the condom before any genital contact occurs.
3. Handle the condom carefully to avoid tearing, and consider using lubrication to minimize breakage.
4. Roll the condom on the right way. If incorrectly placed, discard it and use a new one.
5. Ensure the condom stays on from start to finish of intercourse.
6. Dispose of the condom properly, as it contains bodily fluids.
How can I avoid STIs and STDs?
Abstaining from sex remains the only foolproof method to completely avoid contracting an STD or an STI, though it's not always feasible. Here are some key tips to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections and diseases:
Use condoms: While not infallible, condoms significantly lower the risk of STIs and STDs. Latex condoms have lower breakage rates and are highly recommended for safer sex.
Limit sexual partners: Engaging in a monogamous sexual relationship substantially decreases the risk of contracting STIs or STDs. Having multiple partners significantly elevates the risk.
Get regular STI testing: If sexually active, routine testing is vital. This not only helps in early detection but also prevents further transmission. Adhering to HPV vaccination schedules and maintaining regular appointments with a healthcare professional are essential elements of preventive healthcare.
Foster open communication: It's crucial to have honest and open conversations with partners about your sexual health. This transparency aids in protecting both parties' well-being.